Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) sought to unify its facilitywide signage with a new, cohesive wayfinding system. The existing signage was a disjointed mixture of designs that had been installed over a period of time as terminals were built and modified. The client wanted to introduce clarity and consistency in their airport that serves 30 million passengers annually.

In 2007, Gresham Smith successfully worked with PHL on a wayfinding study that included a survey, evaluation and inventory of the airport’s interior, curbside and parking garage signage. Existing signage was categorized based by signage type (e.g., directional, identification, informational including safety, regulatory including security, and temporary). The resulting report included a list of recommendations for improvements as well as implementation strategies.

Based on these recommendations, PHL decided to hire Gresham Smith for the design of their new wayfinding system. Our environmental graphic design team took a holistic approach to address the facilitywide signage inconsistencies with a standardized solution. We created an Airport Signage Standard for thousands of signs throughout five terminals that improved key signage elements including: terminology, message hierarchy, color coding, use of symbols and arrows, font style and sizing, sign placement and mounting, sign design and layout, materials and fabrication, and illumination. Signature circles and identification icons further support PHL’s distinctive new wayfinding brand. The team also created a comprehensive signage inventory that can be easily updated and incorporated into the airport’s geographic information system as well as a future PHL wayfinding app for smartphones.

Gresham Smith utilized our employees’ extensive experience in large-scale aviation solutions and based our designs on extensive research, analysis of circulation paths and evaluation of the existing signage. The result is an aesthetically pleasing, highly usable wayfinding system throughout PHL’s terminals, baggage claims and curbsides. The project brings the facility into the new era with a cohesive, energetic, efficient and low-maintenance wayfinding system.



Philadelphia International Airport


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Jim Harding, SEGD
Jim Harding, SEGD
Director of Environmental Graphics